A longtime literary collaborator traces the life of a young British girl who became a voice for humanity.
Many have fallen under the spell cast by Jane Goodall. Peterson, who edited her two-volume autobiography (Reason For Hope, 1999; Beyond Innocence, 2001), paints his own glowing portrait here. The story begins in a seaside British home, where Valerie Jane was born, in 1933, cared for a menagerie of pets and spent her days reading Doctor Doolittle. She grew up, went to school and in 1955 got an invitation to spend several months in Africa. Her passion for animals got her introduced to anthropologist Louis Leakey, who envisioned a scientific study of chimpanzees living freely in the forest. Within a few years, the animal lover was on the edge of a crystal-blue lake surrounded by a lush emerald jungle. Day after day, Goodall dutifully headed into the forest, where her persistence eventually paid off. She developed a comfortable familiarity with the chimpanzees she studied, and her observations made her a household name. Peterson’s pacing is particularly good, and the jungle never lacks for drama: There are love affairs both animal and human, as well as struggle, death and, ultimately, triumph. Though Peterson tends to gloss over the unhappier parts of his subject’s life, much of her is exposed here. The reader sees Goodall as a disarming but determined advocate and activist who changed the lives of all who met her, whether human or beast. She adapted to her environment, but never forgot who she was. By the end, she is still young Valerie Jane, traveling the world to share her love of animals with the rest of humanity.
A loving depiction of a remarkable woman who charmed the world as much as it captivated her.